Saarbruecken

General information: First Jewish presence: 1321 (see below); peak Jewish population: unknown; Jewish population in 1933: 2,400
Summary: The first Jewish presence to be recorded in this area was in St. Johann, near Saarbruecken, in 1321. It was only during the 1760s, however, that Jews moved to Saarbruecken in significant numbers. In 1825, a Jewish school for religious studies, presided over by a teacher/chazzan, was established in Saarbruecken. In 1927, three teachers supervised seven classes; and in 1932, 209 pupils attended the school (then offering five classes) for four hours each week. The Jews of Saarbruecken consecrated three cemeteries: in 1840, 1845 and 1919, respectively. Records from 1860 mention the existence of a prayer hall on Talstrasse, and the growing community moved to several larger prayer halls in the course of the late 19th century. In 1888, after much deliberation, the community decided to build a synagogue in St. Johann; construction commenced that year and, in November 1890, the community inaugurated a new synagogue whose congregation was liberal in orientation. The smaller Orthodox community, founded during the Weimer period by Jews from Eastern Europe, maintained their own synagogue and, after 1932, a mikveh. A community center with a weekday prayer room was opened in 1919, and it was there that the Orthodox congregation held its High Holiday services, while the liberal congregation, unable to accommodate the large High Holiday crowds in its synagogue, rented an additional prayer hall for that purpose. In 1933, approximately 2,400 Jews lived in Saarbruecken. The rabbi was Dr. Solomon Ruelf, and, after his emigration in 1934, Dr. Rotschild. Three hundred and ten pupils studied religion, and several Jewish associations and branches of nation-wide Jewish organizations were active in the community. In 1934, a Jewish elementary school was opened in Saarbruecken. Although most Jews left Saarbruecken after the Saarland region was returned to Germany in 1935, this community was the only one still officially functioning in the Saarland in 1936. Rabbi Rotschild continued to serve all Jews in the region until his emigration from Germany in 1938. On November 8, 1938 (one day before Pogrom Night), Nazis destroyed the synagogue’s furniture and lamps. The synagogue was invaded three times on Pogrom Night itself; its ritual objects and interior were destroyed, after which the building was burned to the ground. Between 130 and 150 Jewish men were taken from their homes and marched through town to the accompanying cheers and blows of a mob. Some were released the next day, but most were sent to Dachau after having swastikas painted on their faces. When war broke out in 1939, Saarbruecken’s remaining Jews were sent to work camps. At least 299 Saarbruecken Jews perished in the Shoah. The city’s two Jewish cemeteries were desecrated during the war. A new Jewish community in Saarbruecken, founded in 1946, inaugurated a synagogue (with 430 seats) on Beethovenplatz in 1951. Later, in 1978, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the former synagogue site.
Author / Sources: Nurit Borut
Sources: DGJS, DNPS, DZG, EJL, FJG
Located in: Saarland